What seemed like a pipe dream is slowly becoming tangible for the Philadelphia Phillies — although not quite expected yet.
Just a few months ago, the Phillies’ chances of retaining star catcher JT Realmuto was pronounced dead after the franchise lost $145 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 29-year-old’s expected price tag of over $20 million per season would have put a financial vice on the team.
It got to the point where trade rumors arose around starting pitcher Zack Wheeler just one season after signing a five-year, $118 million deal to get some money off the books. There was even speculation that the albatross that is Bryce Harper’s contract could be moved, too.
But the Phillies stymied those rumors with the hiring of Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations — a notorious “win now” baseball mind that guaranteed the Phillies would look to add rather than subtract; though it might be a slower process.
It sparked the hope that Realmuto could return to Philadelphia, which would be an ultimate delight for Harper, who has championed the cause of bringing the catcher back throughout 2020 and into the offseason.
The largest reported suitor for Realmuto, the division-rival Mets, opted not to wait for negotiations with the catcher’s camp, opting to sign James McCann instead.
Now, the waiting continues, as was expected considering the molasses-like speed of the market that has seen no major free agents such as Trevor Bauer or George Springer make a decision yet.
Realmuto is attempting to set the record for most money given annually to a catcher, which was Joe Mauer’s $23 million AAV. For a nearly 30-year-old catcher with some recent injuries, it’s a large ask. Especially during a pandemic that sapped a combined $3 billion out of Major League Baseball and its teams.
That obviously makes the prospect of hitting that number less likely, but that isn’t to say there are no other interested parties circling his camp.
Both the Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays have expressed interest in Realmuto — the latter a continuous threat on the market for big names, including Springer. The Astros are also considered a threat seeing as its the closest catcher-needy franchise to his home in Oklahoma.
But there have been reports dating back to October disclosing that Realmuto would prefer to stay in Philadelphia for 2021 and beyond. The problem is, of course, the money and if the Phillies could actually step up and give him a five-year deal worth a total ranging near $125 million.
That would be their big move of the offseason, leaving the Phillies to try and work on a budget to patch together other pressing needs. The bullpen is still in shambles despite the acquisition of Jose Alvarado, a shortstop is needed if Didi Gregorius does in fact walk in free agency, and starting-pitching depth behind Aaron Nola and Wheeler isn’t anything to write home about, either.